Euro Cup Soccer Boosts German TV Ratings, Hits Box Office

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COLOGNE, Germany  -- German movie theaters stayed empty this weekend as viewers crowded in front of their TV sets to watch the home team triumph in the group stage at the Euro 2012 soccer championships.

The numbers told the tale: 27.7 million viewers watched the German side beat Denmark 2-1 on public broadcaster ARD, a 74.2 percent market share and the highest ratings in Germany for any game of the tournament so far.

But while pubs, soccer-loving homes and open-air screenings of the Euro games were packed, cinemas were empty. Just 650,000 movie tickets were sold Friday to Sunday, a 50 percent drop on the previous weekend. Exhibitors were hit by the double whammy of soccer and warm sunny weather, which tends to keep German audiences out of theaters. Men in Black 3 won the weekend in its third outing with a mere 135,000 tickets sold and a box office of just $1.6 million.

Realizing they had little chance competing with the soccer, the studios generally avoided the weekend entirely. There were only two major releases in the territory, and both fared poorly. Warner’s Rock of Ages, the heavy metal musical starring Tom Cruise, squeaked into the top 10, entering at No. 7 with just 25,000 tickets sold. On a soccer-free weekend, that would not likely have been enough. 20th Century Fox tried a bit of counterprogramming in Germany with its bird-spotting comedy The Big Year, featuring Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, but the title didn’t crack the top ten.

The impact of Euro 2012 was evident even when the German squad wasn’t playing. 11.3 million Germans tuned in Friday night to watch England beat Sweden 3-2, and 11.6 million watched the Czech Republic knock out Poland 1-0 in its primetime match Saturday night.

Things could be worse, however. During the three weekends of the 2006 and 2010 soccer World Cups, ticket sales in Germany dropped below 400,000.

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